Many companies speak about their Account Manager (alternatives titles include GAM, SAM, KAM and AD) as a single point of contact. Whilst initially this sounds like a good idea for the company and the customer, on deeper assessment it does not do the role justice, and is inviting failure by setting up the relationship to be managed this way.
Firstly from the customer’s perspective, they do not want to have to contact one person for every type of issue, knowing full well the Account Manager will probably have to defer to someone they could have contacted themselves in the first place. Doing so leads to slow response times and frustration. It also stymies informal contact which many customer representatives value highly (especially technical and functional counterparts) and which creates stronger relationships.
From the company’s perspective, relying so heavily on one person creates poor response time performance, potential work overload and longer term risk as connections between the two organisations are discouraged. This results in a great reduction in customer insights as the contact with the customer is narrowed and formalised.
In our experience the role of the Account Manager is to coordinate, collaborate and facilitate within and between their company and the customer. Accordingly they must have well developed influencing and planning skills to work up, down and across organisations.
In a recent Harvard Business Review, Professor RosabethKanter of the Harvard Business School (talking about Peter Drucker’s legacy) said, “If the twentieth century gave rise to knowledge workers with deep expertise, the twenty-first century will require leaders who can foster integrative thinking and collaboration across fields and specialities. Collaboration, not coordination will be the task of management.”
So in setting up your Strategic Account Management program, give greater thought to the role and capability of the Account Manager. They should not be a conduit for information flows, but insteadthe “conductor” who ensures the right people can easily make contact about the right things to facilitate the expansion of the business relationship for mutual benefit.
If you do not have a formal process to develop your Account Managers to a new level of performance, please call us on +61 2 9450 1040 and let’s chat.